Things that slow us down

Things that slow us down may be things we need the most.

Every week since the summer of 2008, I’ve sent some version of the 200 words project – where I share a synthesis of an idea from a book I read within 200 words. The previous incarnation (2008-2014) was a team effort with a former colleague who came up with the idea. For the first 2 years, I didn’t participate much in the creation process. Around 2010, however, I took over most of the content creation and that continued in the form of the 200 words project today.

Creating these is a multi-step process. The first step is reading interesting books. Next, I take notes as I read. And, finally, I aim to synthesize relevant notes in a series of ideas that capture what I’ve learnt from the book. It is a slow process. But, it has been rewarding. In addition to blogging about them here, I send them out in a weekly newsletter of sorts to friends, acquaintances, former colleagues and clients. It’s worked as a wonderful way to stay in touch.

But, every once a while, I ask myself if the time has come to kill the project. And, admittedly, this has happened with greater frequency since I became a parent 3 months ago. So, I took a long 6 week break over the holidays to check in on my motivation to continue doing this. It still existed.

I had an epiphany last weekend when I was preparing future drafts – why was I keen to kill the project? It felt like it was slowing me down. In the limited time I had during weekends for working on this stuff, I could do other things or simply read more.

But, would more be better? Would I truly make the most of the books I read if I wasn’t synthesizing them?

It occurred to me that this process is likely valuable because it is slow. Boiling books down to their essence requires a certain depth of focus. It stands in contrast to my general pace of life. And, that difference was certainly challenging for many reasons. But, that investment in depth also reaped wonderful rewards in the long run in the form of learning and wisdom.

So, every once a while, slow might be exactly what we need.

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